Next in line for the call to power from BT

Who is BT is lining up to replace Sir Peter Bonfield as chief executive?
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The Independent Online

Rupert Gavin, the chief executive of BBC Worldwide, has emerged as a surprise early favourite in the battle to be the next chief executive of BT. His name has been mentioned after BT executives privately conceded they are unlikely to find an internal candidate to replace chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield.

Most senior BT managers have already ruled themselves out of the running and it is understood that the company has appointed blue-chip head-hunting firm Whitehead Mann to find an external candidate. While Mr Gavin's profile in the City is not strong, he is generally thought to have done a decent job running the corporation's commercial arm.

He has two strings to his bow: he is well-known to BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland, the former BBC chairman; and in the mid 1990s Mr Gavin worked at BT, latterly as head of the company's retail division.

However, the Eton-educated Mr Gavin made some enemies while at BT and the BBC. Said one former associate: "He is very energetic, bright, but does have a tendency to rub peopleup the wrong way."

The City's favourite for Sir Peter's job is Roy Gardner, chief executive of Centrica. A marathon runner and mountaineer, Mr Gardner has a strong following in the Square Mile after he reinvented the former British Gas and successfully integrated the Automobile Association, which he bought two years ago. While he hasn't commented on the possibility of moving to BT, some doubt his appetite for the job as he is also about to take on the chairmanship of Manchester United.

The third potential external candidate is Gerry Murphy, chief executive of Carlton. Mr Murphy is still liked in the City despite his company's less than successful foray into digital television, through ITV Digital. Like Mr Gavin, he is well known to Sir Christopher, having served a stint as chief executive of freight company NFC, while Sir Christopher was chairman.

There is still, however, a slim chance that an internal candidate could be persuaded to take the job. Here, the focus is on Pierre Danon, head of BT's retail division.

A bright and driven Frenchman who previously headed Xerox's European operations, Mr Danon has impressed Sir Christopher with his plans to generate new revenues from what is a declining part of BT's business.

However, Mr Danon has consistently maintained that he does not want the job. Last week, when asked by The Independent on Sunday if he was interested in becoming BT chief executive, he said: "That's absurd. That's ridiculous. I have no interest in Peter Bonfield's job whatsoever."

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